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The Red Sea International Film Festival turns the spotlight back on female talent with Women in Cinema

«Initiatives such as Women in Cinema of the Red Sea International Film Festival not only do they offer enormous support, a network of contacts and resources tailored to the challenges that women working in film, like me, face, but also great visibility globally thanks to participation in events, festivals and with various types of collaborations. Having this kind of attention opens doors to international opportunities and promotes intercultural exchanges enriching our professional experiences. Women in cinema it is an important initiative because it allows women involved in every area of ​​the film industry to meet, share their experiences, ideas and create meaningful connections. I can speak from personal experience, because it was during events like this that I had the opportunity to meet people with great expertise who acted as mentors to me and with whom a friendly relationship was created. Meetings that have meant new opportunities in my career.”

Talking is Saudi actress Adhwa Fahad, one of the six talented female talents that the Red Sea Film Foundation – linked to the Red Sea International Film Festival which takes place every year in Jeddah – has decided to honor on the occasion of Women in Cinema, scheduled at the 2024 Cannes Film Festival. An event that celebrates women in cinema – actresses, screenwriters, directors and so on – with a dinner gala on May 18th.

After working as a model, Fahad soon dedicated herself to acting, “I started being an actress in 2019”, she says, “and I immediately discovered how much I loved playing different characters, immersing myself in their worlds”.

In the space of just 5 years, he has already made 12 filmsincluding From the ashes, released in streaming on Netflix also in Italy at the beginning of the year, a story set in a girls' school in Saudi Arabia devastated by a fire that raises doubts about its origins and purposes. «As a Saudi woman and artist I feel I have a commitment to breaking barriers and increasing the presence of diverse voices within the film industry» says Fahad.

And he adds: «My love for cinema also led me to venture into production. As an actress, I was able to understand how complex the journey of a project is, from script to screen, and I was able to observe the collective efforts of the production teams. With this role I am determined to have an impact on Saudi cinema which is in full development. My desire is to offer inspiration and encouragement to future generations of filmmakers.”

How have you been helped and advised by other women in your career? And how do you think you can lend a hand to your younger colleagues?
«My path in this world has been profoundly influenced by the support I have received. And from the moment I started working in cinema, one of the main objectives I set myself was to give my contribution to making other women, colleagues and even aspiring actresses, stand out. I have always tried to foster a culture of female empowerment.”

What are the main tools for growing female talents in cinema?
«Offering women job opportunities is not enough. It's also about sharing know-how and offering a supportive environment. We are working to ensure that women can feel safe and we are addressing the issue of harassment so that young people who enter this world, but also their families, feel helped, protected and at ease.”

How could a stronger female presence have a positive impact on the film industry and also on the rest of society?
«In the world of entertainment, having greater diversity in stories means being able to “speak” to a wider audience. And having more women in key roles, from directors to screenwriters to producers, means offering role models capable of pushing women and girls to pursue and realize their dreams. But there is also a broader effect. A more inclusive and differentiated film industry generates economic benefits for the entire society because it increases productivity and generates new job opportunities and benefits also for local communities.”

Where did you find the strength and motivation to face the challenges and uncertainties of a profession and a world that is not as easy as that of cinema?
«The fact that I questioned myself and the fear of failure represented major obstacles. But I had to face an even bigger one, which had a huge impact on my life. Two and a half years ago I lost my father. At that moment I thought about letting go of everything, even my love for acting: the pain was crushing me and I wondered if I had the strength to carry on. But it was through work that I found relief and realized that I didn't have to give up. Acting is also therapeutic, a way to express oneself and a source of growth.”

How does a festival like Red Sea help give women a voice?
«Offering us a showcase to make our work known and celebrated. The 2022 edition represented a launch pad for 35 films directed by female directors and gave the opportunity to participate in several masterclasses with some of the most inspiring female figures in the global film industry.”

Be one of the protagonists of Women in Cinema at a prestigious festival like Cannes, what does it mean for a Saudi actress like you?
«I consider it a huge achievement and a symbol of how barriers between different cultures can be broken. Furthermore, it gives me a great opportunity to represent my country on an international stage. From a professional point of view, then, it means new opportunities, collaborations and the possibility of expanding my horizons and creating links with professionals from all over the world. Furthermore, it fills me with pride and gratitude to be able to be part of an innovative phenomenon like Saudi cinema and to be able to contribute to making our talent known on a global level.”

How do you imagine the future of cinema in your country?
«Promising from the point of view of creativity, diversity and growth. We have everything it takes – the energy, the talent and the enthusiasm – to become protagonists of the global film industry in a short time. And I will do everything I can to give my contribution to the growth of our cinema by committing myself even more as a producer.”

Source: Vanity Fair

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